Putting our Future into Sustainable Energy

By the ESB Climate Representative

“Our planet, our future” is an expression that we have all heard countless times. But if you ask yourself truthfully what your future looks like, the majority will respond “By the time our planet becomes problematic, I will long be dead.” But is this really the case? The answer is no. Our planet became problematic from 1830 onwards. From this year, human activity started influencing the climate. It was June 23rd, 1988, that climate change was announced an international issue. 20 days after this article was published, climate change will officially have been a threat to our planet for 33 years. So, from now on, when someone responds by saying their lifespan will no longer experience the planets downfall, you tell them they have already been living with the planet’s downfall since 1830.  

Every action we take, whether it is driving to school, eating a hamburger, shopping online or even eating Nutella, is contributing to the most burning global issue of our world today, climate change. Climate change includes both large-scale shifts in patterns of weather, and global warming, caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases. The energy sector, and the use of non-renewable energy is on a bigger scale, one of the most damaging to our earth. Coal, natural gas, oil and nuclear energy are still widely used to provide energy, due to the low costs, easy access and low inputs needed. However, with the impacts these situations impose, what will our future become? Should we be worried? Are we too late? Or can we change this around, and undo the damage we have done?  

Sustainability is the answer to this. Sustainability is the ability of maintaining a rate or level of something in existence. The current sustainability issue we are tackling is meeting our own needs without risking the needs of the future generations. This relates to sustainable development which is achieving economic development without the depletion of natural resources. The energy sector contributes immensely to the increasing rates of C02 emission. In 1951, The Economic Coal and Steel Community was established by the six founding members: The Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg, Germany and France. This foundation was primarily based on the mass production of steel and coal after World War Two, promoting peace an end to the long-lasting conflicts. The ECSC led to many worries across Europe, concerning resource depletion, pollution and the warming up of the planet. It was only until the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009, that a realistic energy policy was established, with the aims of meeting energy with sustainability to achieve a long-term vision for all Union policies. The 20/20/20 policy was the first plan put into action, raising awareness and ensuring the safety of sustainable energy. The three aspects of how sustainability of energy can be attained are through: securing a reliable energy source, ensuring energy providers operate in a competitive environment, and making energy consumption environmentally friendly. Sustainability is the European Union’s goal and therefore energy decisions will always be established on the grounds of a balanced economic and sustainable sector.  

Prior to the introduction of a more sustainable energy policy, energy production across the EU was becoming a concerning issue along the years. Before the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009, many energy providers acted as either an oligopoly or monopoly. This resulted in high prices of energy, influencing economic markets negatively as productivity for example was decreasing. Furthermore, the growing levels of demand for energy were leading to insecurities of energy supply. This rising global demand also led to fuels, such as crude oil, becoming scarce, making prices for this rise as well. This was exercising stress on energy suppliers and caused consumer confidence to fall. Greenhouse gas emissions were also soaring, putting the environment at a great risk. This led to pollution, increased CO2 levels, melting ice polars and glaciers, forest fires, floods and harm to the biodiversity.  Several other issues which arose prior to the introduction of a more sustainable policy, was that the European Union was so energy dependent, they imported over half of its energy at a cost of €350 billion per year.  

The EU developed regulations which would ensure that energy providers operate in a competitive environment. As a result of this, this was achievable by governments in the EU; they subsidized new firms to grow in the business market, they restricted the power of monopolies through regulating prices, and they lowered barriers of market entry. With a competitive market, energy prices became affordable for households, businesses and industries. The EU ensured a secure energy supply making more use of the EU’s diversity through increasing trade. They also invested in new technology to increase productiveness. This therefore increased reliable provision allowing consumers to demand energy wherever and whenever they wished. It also resulted in the greenhouse gas emissions decreasing as EU members became less dependent on fossil fuels. The government again invested and subsidized largely to make the use of renewable energy more attractive to firms, households and industries. This led to an increase in sustainable energy consumption. 

So, what can we do as members of European schools, citizens of today’s world, and human-beings responsible for future generations? CO2 emissions are mainly caused by our daily activities. This includes, the consumption of non-balanced based diets, daily car rides, shopping, going on vacation by plane, doing the wash and the list continues. This does not mean we need to eliminate these routines, but we need to find a balance between our wants and needs. Do we really have to take the car to school? Or can you bike, carpool or use public transport to school? Is that extra hamburger necessary? Is consuming meat substitutes really that bad? Give yourself a minute to reflect on these questions, and slowly we can achieve a greener planet.  

Now, looking at a national level, have we achieved sustainability throughout the years? Most countries in the European Union have met all the targets since the 1990s, however this by far doesn’t mean the fight for a greener environment is over. The Paris climate agreement, limiting the global average temperature to well below two degrees Celsius is still far from succeeding. The 20/20/20 targets failed to be achieved in every EU country. And the targets set for 2030 and 2050, as well as the Green Deal are still a matter of being approved and achieved. Together we can combat this issue and improve our future in terms of energy sustainability.